From Leonardo Da Vinci to Oliver Sacks, we have always tried to navigate the complexities of the human brain. This natural curiosity is often sparked at a young age, but many of these concepts and ideas can be difficult to put into layman’s terms for kids and teens.
In 2011, McGill’s Integrated Program in Neuroscience (IPN) launched Brain Reach, a non-profit initiative that offers science workshops for students at public elementary and high schools in Quebec. The project is made up of graduate students in the program who put together interactive lesson plans and visit Grade 4 and Secondary 3 students.
“This is an opportunity to give students a different perspective on science,” says Falisha Karpati, the social media and communications manager.
McGill students visit the classrooms several times throughout the year and present a broad range of topics. During the elementary school sessions, students get introductory information on the brain, the five senses, and what the brain does while asleep as well as how the brain controls our emotions.
For the high school classes, presenters discuss subjects like neurotransmissions, the effects of drugs on your brain and psychiatric disorders. The sessions follow a lecture format with presentation slides, but Karpati says every presenter incorporates student involvement. Some even bring in actual brains.
“I feel that it’s important to show young students that science is interesting, exciting and accessible,” Karpati says. ”I want to show them that neuroscience is a broad field and includes much more than what is often viewed as stereotypical science-related activities. Science is related to all aspects of life.”
Karpati says it is also a great teaching experience for the graduate students. “If you can explain what a neuron is to a Grade 4 student, you can teach it to everyone.”
Last year, Brain Reach visited more than 20 schools, reaching close to 1,000 students. McGill typically reaches out to schools in underprivileged parts of the province. The students have also launched an online version of the program to reach students in northern parts of the province they are unable to visit. For more information, visit mcgill.ca/ipn/brainreach.